WASHINGTON — The price of meat on grocery store shelves has become a subject of increasing debate, but one liberal group says the Covid-19 pandemic and wages aren’t to blame.

Instead, the group Accountable.US found meatpackers have paid hundreds of million of dollars in penalties for price fixing and are pointing to that as the cause.

Republicans have increasingly pointed to consumer prices and inflation as evidence that Democratic economic policies, including pumping trillions of dollars of stimulus into the economy to offset pandemic problems.

A review by Accountable.US found that the biggest meat processing companies have all recently been subject to serious price-fixing lawsuits, with several already agreeing to pay at least $400 million in fines and settlements in recent years for manipulating prices, and even colluding with one another to do so.

“When meat packer CEOs are still living high on the hog after agreeing to pay $400 million in fines and settlements for manipulating prices in recent years, consumers know who to really blame for ridiculous meat prices,” Accountable.US President Kyle Herrig said in a statement.

Major meatpackers included in the Accountable.US review are Smithfield Foods, JBS, National Beef Packing Co., Tyson Foods and Cargill. The companies have all denied wrongdoing.

In October, JBS and its subsidiaries agreed to pay over $110 million to settle price-fixing allegations, according to documents compiled by Accountable.US. Tyson Foods agreed to a $221.5 million price-fixing settlement and continues to face lawsuits from major food sellers such as Walmart, McDonald’s and Sysco alleging price inflation.

Additionally, the review found Smithfield Foods paid $83 million to settle price-fixing allegations.